One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence

London 1986: A young man stricken with cancer and his group of friends must battle conflicts anticipated: angry school bullies, infatuation, the roll of the 20-sided die… and the unimagined: chemo and the uncertain future. Bonding over the D&D table, this diverse crew from both sides of the tracks comes together to help their friend Nick in his time of need.

Nick Hayes is your average teenager whose life is tuned upside-down with his diagnosis. His mother is trying her best after the death of her husband/ Nick’s father to cancer several years before. Each of Nick’s D&D buddies bring unique personalities to the table; this ‘character sheet’ metaphor is worked in a bit, but maybe not enough for some of the characters. A frustration with one friend. An emergency with another. And secrets between several. These conflicts will wind their way through the piece and find some resolution…

I liked this one, but didn’t love it. So many of the novellas I’ve read lately fall into one of three categories: a perfect snapshot, a too-short novel, or a muddled exploration. I feel like One Word Kill falls into the second category. There were so many parts I wanted to explore more, like the D&D campaign, the chemo ward, or Nick’s connection with his father. Lawrence chose to focus on several slim aspects of the characters; the ones that would directly play a part in the main plot line. But what is lost is the full development of the characters.

One Word Kill starts with a good premise, but I felt like it was too short in many ways to fully gain my buy-in. I really enjoyed what was there, but wanted more… so, that forces me to try the next book in the series, Limited Wish?

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